Have you considered setting up an exercise desk at home? If so, you’re not alone.
With so many of us not working in traditional offices, we are finding ourselves having to set up workable office spaces at home. At the same time, if you exercise regularly, you may have to learn how to balance that workout time with working time.
Perhaps part of your workout routine was walking to/from your office each day. I know that for my daughter, who is sheltering in place with us since graduate school closed for face-to-face instruction, walking 20-minutes each way to her graduate assistantship was part of that regular exercise routine. With that part of your plan gone, what are you going to do?
Well, if you have a treadmill, you can always use that to get in your steps. Or you can do that walking your dogs. But if you have a full-time job that you need to get done, too? Well, the solution is that aforementioned exercise desk.
What is an exercise desk
Exercise desks take many forms. These include:
- walking desk
- standing or standup desk
- desk cycle or bike
We have had an exercise desk, in one form or another, for more than a decade. In fact, in our house now, we have two of three kinds of exercise desks I’ve mentioned above.
We have a DIY treadmill or walking desk and most recently we were able to set up a bike desk using our Peloton. First, I’ll explain how we created each of these two kinds of desks that let you workout while you work. Then, I’ll explain how you can set up a standing or standup desk. Finally, I’ll make suggestions on how you can make these kinds of desks for you at home.
I’ll share tips using items you already own as well as new ones you may want to buy. Whenever possible, I’ll share pictures so it all makes sense.
My desire to create a walking desk or treadmill desk started a number of years ago as a New Year’s resolution. I’d read some medical research about how sitting isn’t good for my health. These studies had shown that people who sit a lot tend to die younger.
I knew I wanted a walking desk, but I didn’t want to spend thousands of dollars getting one into my office. FYI, walking desks are sometimes called exercise desks, treadmill offices, workstation treadmill, and more. We already owned a treadmill so I figured there had to be a hack out there that could turn my regular treadmill into a walking desk.
My husband figured something out using products we already had at home. This setup is so easy that even if you’re not DIY inclined, you could make a treadmill desk, too.
My DIY walking desk
Basically, what we did was created a work surface above our existing treadmill. We accomplished this by taking a board that is 16 inches deep and 32.5 inches wide. It’s supposed to be a shelf to hang on a wall, but we weren’t using it at the time. Then, we clamped the shelf/board to the handles of the treadmill. We used two bar clamps, which tighten with a pumping motion–like pulling the trigger on a spray bottle–and then lock in place.
The board aka desk surface is wide enough for me to fit my laptop, external mouse/trackball, and a pad of paper and pen for taking notes while working and walking. It’s like being able to spread out on a regular desk, albeit one that is suspended above the treadmill on which I am walking.
How to walk and work at your exercise desk
Some people are amazed that I can do both simultaneously. Understand that when I’m working at my treadmill desk, I’m walking at a leisurely 1.5 miles per hour. That’s like a pace you would use when strolling with your dog.
Honestly, walking and working at the laptop is easier than you might think–and I’m pretty klutzy. What is sometimes challenging, however, is hand writing anything, which is why I tend to stick with the computer work.
When I use my treadmill desk, I walk, on average, an extra 60 minutes a day. All together I am getting significantly more exercise in my day. And my lower back does hurt a lot less than it used to. Because I always stretch afterwards. Stretching is so important.
Spintray for Peloton
With my Peloton bike I haven’t found a way to have the cycle do double duty as a workstation. I know people who’ve had cycle desks or bike desks, but these were built using “regular” spin or stationery bikes. I wasn’t sure you could turn your Peloton into a bike desk.
What is the SpinTray exercise desk?
Recently, I discovered something called the SpinTray for Peloton. It’s a custom-cut piece of acrylic that slips over the Peloton handlebars. It’s a got a little “stick” to it (but not like flypaper) so your laptop doesn’t slide off.
This is a great option when you want to use your Peloton for a “Just Ride” while checking email or working on your computer. Here is a video of the Spintray in action!Clearly, you do not want to do a HIIT ride or a Power Zone class with your laptop in front of you. But if you’re looking to be active while working at a “desk,” the SpinTray is a great new option. I’ve even recommended the Spintray in my gift guide for Peloton users.
SpinTray for a treadmill
The creator of the SpinTray recently announced that he’s created a new SpinTray for the Peloton Tread. Wonder if it will be called the Tread Tray. Anyway, this is a Peloton-specific option for a treadmill or walking desk. I haven’t tried it out–I don’t have the Tread–and I don’t see it for sale yet on Etsy like the SpinTray is. But I’ll keep you posted should things change.
Anyway, I’ve had people land on my blog, looking for a bike desk for Peloton. They’re searching for a Peloton laptop holder or tray. Or a Peloton desk attachment. Whatever you call it, this real SpinTray can help you get your work done and keep your Peloton streak going.
Perhaps the easiest exercise desk you can make is the standing desk. That’s because if you have a bar-height counter in your home, you’re all set. Why? Because the bar height is probably the perfect height for a standing desk.
How to make a stand-up desk
Say you don’t have a bar-height surface in your home. We don’t in ours. So I got an adjustable height table. I got mine at Costco but I’ve also seen adjustable height tables that could work as a standing desk at Staples. Important money-saving tip: when you search on the Staples site for an adjustable height table, the first suggestion the site is going to make is an adjustable height desk. Yes, that’s what you want. No, that’s not the price you want to pay. We’re talking multiple hundreds of dollars.
In addition to buying a regular table that happens to have an adjustable height, you can also get yourself a laptop stand or a laptop riser. This can help you turn a regular table into a standing or standup desk by raising the surface on which you put your laptop.
I’ve also seen adjustable height tables on Amazon. This one looks almost identical to the one I got, in person, at Costco. It adjusts to three heights:
- 24-inch, which is children’s height
- 29-inch table height, which is a regular table height
- 36-inch, which is countertop height
This last height is actually a little higher than my Costco table. At its tallest it’s only 34 inches.
Chair for a standing desk
I know that the notion of getting a chair for a standing desk seems counterproductive. But hear me out.
You’ve probably heard about the benefits of sitting on a balance ball instead of a regular office chair. While on the ball, you’re forced to engage your core and use your legs. It’s like getting a mini workout throughout your work day.
Get a rug for your standing desk
If you do end up working in your kitchen at your standing desk–or on any hard surface–I would recommend getting some kind of gel pad floor mat for under your feet. You may have noticed that chefs use them in kitchen or hair stylists in salons. That’s because hard floors can be unforgiving on your feet and legs.
And if you’re going to start standing while you work, you should invest in something that won’t leave your back or legs aching. A good pair of shoes to wear is also a no brainer.
Exercise desk ergonomics
Regardless of which exercise desk you decide to build or buy, you should always practice good ergonomics. This helps avoid sore muscle and fatigue.
First, you want to make sure that you aren’t looking down to see your computer screen. It’s why, with my walking desk, I propped my laptop up on a bin. Next, you don’t want to be reaching too far to get to your keyboard–or squishing your wrists in. They should lay comfortable on the desk as if you were sitting at a regular desk. Finally, think about your footwear.
So what about footwear? Well, if you’re at a standup desk, wear sturdy, supportive shoes. Maybe a small step to rest on of your feet on to help your lower back. Good athletic footwear for a walking desk.
Speaking of footwear, did you know that you’re supposed to replace your sneakers or tennis shoes every 300 to 500 miles? Sooner if you’re a runner. If I walk my dogs two miles every day, that means I should be getting new gear every five to six months. When was the last time you replaced your sneakers? I just bought these Brooks running shoes on Zappos, because I was due for new ones.
Final thoughts on an exercise desk
Just today Twitter announced that it would be allowing its employees to work from home forever. Also today, California State University announced that it would have an online semester for its college students. I’m sure they’re not the first. And, it makes me think that the need for information about exercise desks isn’t going away any time soon.
If my daughters were younger and need to be schooling at home, I would surely be looking for a way to get them more activity and get their work done. Parents are already having their kids using their Pelotons. I’ll bet if any of them have the SpinTray, they’re getting schoolwork done while pedaling away the miles.
Have I missed anything in covering exercise desks, how I made my DIY treadmill desk or anything else? If so, please post a comment. I’d love to hear from you.